This month the updated Windows 10 Anniversary Edition is now available for download. (Here is a list of offers on Microsoft’s blog.) There are several new security features worth mentioning, including Information Protection andDefender ATP (each of which will require a Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5 subscription respectively). I cover what these new features are and suggest that if you are using an earlier version, it might be time to upgrade on my iBoss blog post today.
Endpoint security used to be so simple: you purchase an anti-malware scanner, install across your endpoints, and you were protected. Not anymore. However, the days of simple endpoint protection are over. Scanning and screening for malware has become a very complex process, and most traditional anti-malware tools only find a small fraction of potential infections. The attackers have gotten more sophisticated, and so too must the endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools, which need to find more subtle exploits, even ones that don’t leave many fingerprints.
This week, I review of ten different endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools for Network World magazine. You can read the complete review package here.
I spent several months running Outlier Security, Cybereason, Sentinel One, Stormshield SES, ForeScout CounterAct, Promisec PEM, Countertack Sentinel, CrowdStrike Falcon Host, Guidance Software Encase, and Comodo Advanced Endpoint Protection. From this experience, I came up with a series of broad trends:
Virus signatures are passé. Creating a virus with a unique signature is child’s play, thanks to the nearly automated virus construction kits that have filled the Internet over the past several years. Instead, many of these products tap into security news feeds that report on the latest attacks such as VirusTotal.com and other reputation management services.
Second, tracking executable programs is also so last year. In the old days of malware, exploits typically had some kind of payload or residue that they left on an endpoint: a file, a registry key or whatnot. Then the bad guys graduated to run their business just in memory, leaving little trace of their activity, or hide inside PDFs or Word documents, or would force your Web browser to a phished site that contained Java-based exploits. Today’s hackers have become more sophisticated, using Windows Powershell commands to set up a remote command shell, pass a few text commands, and compromise a machine without leaving much of a trace on an endpoint.
Many products can track privilege escalation or other credential spoofing. Modern attackers try to penetrate your network with a legit user credential that uses a default setting when you installed SQL Server or some other product, and then escalate to a domain administrator or other more significant user with greater network rights.
Insider threats are more pernicious, and blocking them has become more compelling. One of the reasons why traditional anti-virus protection has failed is because attackers can gain access to your internal network and do damage from a formerly trusted endpoint. To block this kind of behavior, today’s tools need to map the internal or lateral network movement so you can track down what PCs were compromised and neutralize them before your entire network falls into the wrong hands.
In addition to insider threats, data exfiltration is more popular than ever. Moving private user data, or confidential customer information, out of your network is the name of the game today. Look no further than Sony or Target to see the harm of making public some of their data as examples of what the EDR tool has to deal with now.
Many tools are using big data and cloud-based analytics to track actual network behavior. One of the reasons why the sensors and agents are so compact is that most of the heavy lifting of these tools happens in the cloud, where they can bring to bear big data techniques and data visualization to identify and block a potential attack.
The variety of approaches is stunning, and worth a closer look at these tools, to see if you can leverage one or more of them to better protect your endpoints.
Due to numerous exploits that have defeated two-factor authentication, many IT departments now want more than a second factor to protect their most sensitive logins and assets. The market has evolved toward what is now being called multi-factor authentication or MFA, featuring new types of tokens and authentication methods.
For this review in Network World, we looked at nine products, five that were included in our 2013 review, and four newcomers. Our returning vendors are RSA’s Authentication manager, SafeNet’s Authentication Service (which has been acquired by Gemalto), Symantec VIP, Vasco Identikey Authorization Server, and TextPower’s SnapID app. Our first-timers are NokNok Labs S3 Authentication Suite (pictured above), PistolStar PortalGuard, Yubico’s Yubikey and Voice Biometrics Group Verification Services Platform.
All of these products are worthy of inclusion in this review as representative of where the MFA market is heading. In addition, if you want to stay on top of MFA developments, we recommend you follow our Twitter list here.
Pixel C is the first all-Google Android tablet. It has a 10.2 inch screen and is designed to be used with a companion keyboard that also doubles as a protective cover. The tablet isn’t quite a total replacement for your laptop but it could qualify as the sexiest Android tablet on the market. The Pixel C shouldn’t be confused with an earlier Pixel model, which is a fully decked out Chromebook laptop that costs twice as much.
In my review today for Network World, I talk about the pros and cons for this tablet, and the unique magnetic keyboard that is its most interesting feature.
Like some of you, I got my first introduction to the PC from the spreadsheet. It has been around for more than 35 years in one form or another, and most of us have at least a basic working knowledge of how to use it for rudimentary calculations. In my computing career I have seen numerous spreadsheet abuses – it is amazing what people can force a spreadsheet to do for them. I actually wrote about this in 2014 for Intuit’s blog here.
One of the reasons that Excel and other spreadsheets are so abused is that it can be a very addictive tool, and users are fearful of having to learn something else. Another reason is given by Ron Shaich, the CEO of Panera Bread who says that too often middle managers “manage from the spreadsheet, viewing it as an oracle.They make decisions believing the numbers of the past loaded into the spreadsheet foretell future outcomes.” Sadly, the future is never as certain as we might hope.
If you can break from its charms, you can make use of your computer for a lot more useful activities such as data collaboration and analysis. For the former, you often see the spreadsheet context as a way to share a simple database (not surprisingly, Intuit sells one of these tools) among a work team. For the latter, there is the category of what has been called self-service business intelligence tools. I looked at the best of these for a review I did for PC Magazine last month of ten different BI tools.
The hard part is that these collaboration and analysis tools often have steep learning curves and make it trying to understand their user interfaces. Some products are better at data exploration than data analysis and reporting, so keep that in mind as you look at them. Some tools also cost five or more figures and thus aren’t very appropriate for smaller businesses. Finally, these BI tools come in several different versions, including browser-based SaaS and desktop and server versions: keeping the features straight among them will require some careful study.
Still, spreadsheets are reaching the end of their utility as work teams spread out across the globe and as we want to build better and more useful data models to run our businesses. At their core, the spreadsheet is really a souped-up calculator, not a way to model and share data. Spreadsheets lose their potency when they grow to beyond a single screen to display your calculations or hold a sparse matrix that doesn’t neatly line up in rows and columns.
If you are going to break free of the spreadsheet’s orbit, you probably want to start off with Microsoft’s PowerBI tool (the controls are shown in the screenshot at right). This is free and works both in conjunction and independently from Excel. For a free product, it is amazingly capable. For example, you can query Mailchimp email lists so you can monitor data and trends about your campaigns, reports and individual subscribers, and also query Quickbooks online data. There are both desktop and browser-based versions and a huge collection of learning resources to help you over the hump of getting started.
Besides Microsoft, there are more than several dozen different BI tools: I have looked at a total of ten for PC Magazine, and each has some advantage over a simple spreadsheet. Does this spell the end of the spreadsheet? Hardly. But it does show the beginning of a new market that is worth looking into. As Shaich says in his post, “A spreadsheet is merely a way to organize data. Its numbers generally capture trends of the past, but it is in no way predictive of what’s to come.”
In my 2013 review I looked at several different password managers, some suitable for enterprises and some primarily for consumers. Since then the field has ballooned and there are now more than two dozen different products on the market. As a data point, even the popular TV show “Shark Tank” evaluated a password manager startup in its current season.
For my own current season, I looked at ten tools: Dashlane for Business, Keeper Security’s Enterprise, Lastpass’ Enterprise (now part of LogMeIn), Lieberman’s Enterprise Random Password Manager, LogMeOnce Enterprise Edition (shown at right), Manage Engine’s (now part of Zoho) Password Pro, Agilebits’ 1Password for Teams, StickyPassword, SplashID’s TeamsID, and SingleID. The two strongest products in terms of protecting individual user logins are Lastpass and Keeper.
You can read the full review here, along with a description of some larger issues and overall trends with using these tools.
In the digital age, printers get a bad rap as outdated and inefficient. But some new all-in-one devices still bring value and convenience to today’s offices. Brother’s multifunction MFC-J5920DW printer offers a full complement of features typical of a modern printer/scanner/fax machine.
Sophos has developed an interesting and innovative new security product that bridges the gap between its endpoint and network protection products. Called Security Heartbeat, it requires a Sophos XG firewall and any of Sophos’ cloud-based endpoint protection agents. The entry level firewalls start at $300 and larger models can go for ten times that, with support contracts extra.
We tested the Sophos products during November 2015. Sophos is not as well known as other firewall vendors, but the use of the heartbeat is such an obvious benefit and the kind of innovation that you wonder why it hasn’t been done before.
Most of us know by now that traditional anti-virus doesn’t work, or at least doesn’t work well enough to be the sole line of defense against potential endpoint exploits. Last year Symantec SVP Brian Dye told the WSJ that traditional AV only catches 45% of malware, and many security professionals think the number is even lower. These days, most enterprises need more, or at least want an endpoint product that can actual prevent zero-day infections and exploits from happening and be more proactive.
We looked at two relatively new protective products, Carbon Black (now owned by Bit9, with a screen shot shown above) and Cylance Protect (with a screenshot of its threat analysis shown below). Both are designed to approach securing your endpoints from a different and more complete perspective. To be effective, a modern endpoint security tool needs to be both a gatherer and a hunter: being able to find a needle in the proverbial haystack, when you don’t even know what the needle looks like. That is where this new breed of tools comes into play.
You can read the review published today here.
As cybercriminals exploit infected web pages to launch targeted attacks on state networks, security appliances are essential to thwarting them. The FireEye Network Threat Prevention NX-1400 1U appliance can protect up to 100 users from a variety of zero-day malware and multiprotocol attacks.
You can read the full review in this month’s StateTech Magazine here.